Los Angeles News

'Departed' mob boss caught in Santa Monica

Thursday, June 23, 2011
The mob boss who inspired Jack Nicholsons character in The Departed was arrested, ending a massive manhunt. Bostonites were in disbelief Thursday about the news that mob boss James Whitey Bulger had finally been caught. It was a retired FBI agents tip about an upcoming indictment that prompted James Whitey Bulger to go into hiding. Neighbors of James Whitey Bulger were shocked to find out the mob boss had been living in their quiet neighborhood.

The mob boss who inspired Jack Nicholson's character in "The Departed" was arrested in Santa Monica on Wednesday, ending a massive manhunt that spanned several countries and 16 years.

During a court appearance on Thursday, James "Whitey" Bulger was remanded to Massachusetts to face federal charges, including murder, conspiracy to commit murder, narcotics distribution, extortion and money laundering. The FBI says Bulger is responsible for at least 19 murders in the 1970s and 1980s.

The 81-year-old appeared in Los Angeles federal court with girlfriend Catherine Greig, 60, and waived his right to a removal hearing. Bulger and Greig were being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles and were set to be transported by federal marshals back to Massachusetts.

Bulger faces a series of federal charges Greig, 60, is charged with harboring a fugitive.

Boston's infamous mob boss was found living with Greig on the third floor of the Princess Eugenia apartment complex in the 1000 block of Third Street, just a few blocks from the beach and a block from the pedestrian-friendly Third Street Promenade.

Authorities said more than $800,000 in cash was found at his two-bedroom apartment at the time of the arrest, as well as several forms of false identification.

Additionally, more than 30 firearms, including sawed-off shotguns, Mac 10 machine pistols and AR 15 assault rifles, and several knives were recovered.

Balding, with a full white beard and wire-rimmed glasses, Bulger clutched court documents against his chest when he appeared before Magistrate Judge John McDermott.

Represented by a court-appointed attorney, Bulger was relaxed and assertive when he answered a series of yes or no questions. Bulger told the court he understood the charges against him.

Bulger, who got his nickname because of his blonde hair as a boy, smiled as he was led away by a cadre of law enforcement agents. The shackled Bulger reportedly chuckled when his girlfriend, also in court, told him there were many members of the media there to see him.

Greig, 60, is charged with harboring a fugitive.

Bulger is known as the leader of the Winter Hill Gang, a largely Irish mob that ran loan-sharking, gambling and drug rackets in the Boston area. Bulger rose to No. 1 on the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted" list after Osama bin Laden was killed.

Despite the release of surveillance video and a worldwide manhunt, nothing had worked in catching him - until authorities aired an ad Monday that focused on his longtime girlfriend.

At a news conference Thursday, Steven Martinez, the FBI assistant director in charge in Los Angeles, said that although Los Angeles was not included in the 14 markets where a public service announcement ran, publicity and Internet buzz led to a tip just two days later.

Authorities said he was compliant at the time of the arrest and admitted to who he was. Boston FBI special agent Richard Deslauriers said agents used a ruse to take Bulger in custody.

"Agents and other task force members lured Mr. Bulger out of his apartment," Deslauriers said.

Neighbors said they had no idea they were living next to a wanted criminal.

"I know a lot of people will want to celebrate him and want to talk about him in a very glorified manner, but if he's guilty of all the things that everybody says that he has done, then I'm really glad that he is off my block right now," said Aaron Lewis, another former Boston resident.

Bulger allegedly murdered two young women who dated a member of his gang by the name of Stephen Flemmi, who is currently serving life in prison.

"Stevie just wanted to get rid of these girls," said Howie Carr, an author who was was personally targeted by Bulger. "They were in their 20s and Whitey personally strangled these girls for Steve Flemmie, they chopped off their finger tips and pulled out their teeth so they couldn't be identified later."

He fled Boston in 1994 after being tipped off by an FBI agent.

Martinez said they had no prior knowledge as to where Bulger might be hiding prior to the launch of the campaign.

Martinez would not identify the tipster nor the city from which it came, but said the tip came to the FBI in Los Angeles from the FBI in Boston, which was handling tips worldwide. He also said the tipster would be eligible for the $2 million reward.

Members of the media questioned how Bulger could essentially hide in plain sight, to which Martinez responded: "It's fairly obvious he had the means and wherewithal to stay anonymous."

Bulger's whereabouts also surprised neighbors.

"I've seen this guy walking down before, he goes by Charlie. It's crazy stuff," said one neighbor.

"They didn't stand out to me at all, they were an elderly couple," said another neighbor.

Some who grew up in Boston flocked to Santa Monica after news of the arrest.

"I grew up in Southie, I move out here, been out here for about a week and wow, 'Whitey's' caught, you got to be kidding me," said Jimmy Leblanc, who moved from Boston to Venice.

"I'm raised Irish Catholic, we might raise a pint or two to Whitey. He was kind of the working man's criminal," said Michael Bernard, a former Boston resident.

Bulger was an FBI informant. While Bulger's capture is the end of a long and frustrating search for the FBI, it could expose the bureau to even more scandal. One of Bulger's lieutenants testified in 2002 that Bulger boasted that he had corrupted six FBI agents and more than 20 Boston police officers, keeping them loyal by paying them cash every Christmas.

Bulger's younger brother, William, was one of the most powerful politicians in Massachusetts, leading the state Senate for more than 15 years and later serving as president of the University of Massachusetts. He had no comment on the news of his brother's arrest.

Family members of Bulger's alleged victims are speaking out, saying they've waiting for this day to come.

"This is the one thing that we've been waiting for, not only myself but the other families completely destroyed by this guy, this mass murderer," said Tom Donahue, who's father, Michael Donahue, was said to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when he was allegedly killed by a Bulger associate.

Chris McIntyre's brother John was murdered in 1984. The fisherman, who was informing police about drug activity, was allegedly strangled and shot by Bulger himself.

"The brutality that was done to him, you don't want to think about that being done to somebody that you love," Chris McIntyre said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story

(Copyright ©2014 KABC-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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